Maki's Bamboo and Urushi Lacquer Works
found urushi lacquer ware that were"a natural beauty" with
I saw his works for the first time, it was so refreshing; the first
word that came to my mind was a natural beauty. I was surprised
to find someone who could work with lacquer so lightheartedly. Lacquer
is not thickly caked on or heavily applied. His urushi lacquer
works are divine unembellished wares. They are natural beauty,
wearing just little make up.
Fushimi makes lacquer ware that you would use every day: they are
not decorative ornaments or art objects. His bowls and plates readily
accept any style of cooking and its simplicity adds much finesse
and style to the cuisine. This unpretentious flair is something
special to the craft artist from Shonan, a sophisticated residential
area, located within one hours drive from Tokyo. When I visited
him at his studio, Fushimi appeared smartly dressed in chino pants
with a comfortable sports shirt pulled over his shoulder, which
definitely fits the style of his work.
Fushimi was born in Kanazawa-bunko, located very close to Kamakura.
He started his artistic career by learning Kamakura-bori lacquer
ware. After four years, he decided to head for Kiso County and work
as an apprentice.
His teacher was Sato Senro, a master who chose to make lacquer ware
for daily utensils, and strongly kept to this attitude, putting
it to practice and promoted his skill in the Kiso County, a rather
remote mountainous area, in Nagano Prefecture. After three years
and a half, acquiring his skills as an apprentice, Fushimi establishes
his studio in Saitama Prefecture. In 1994, he finds himself back
at home, close to the ocean. His studio is located in Hayama, a
city in Shonan area that is hardly ever associated or known for
lacquer ware production. Rather than an artisan working in a district
famous for a certain production, he calls himself, an artist working
with an artisan spirit. His wife, Masako, who he met in his first
work place in Kamakura, is his very supportive and understanding
In this feature, I will
introduce a work that has been carefully coated with undercoating
or clay-like primer, then coated couple of times, finished with
the final or third coating using the finest Japanese lacquer. The
natural beauty of the wood grain can be seen through the transparent
lacquer. The wood almost looks as if it is still breathing. Each
piece is a refreshing piece of art, although they are made for use
in every day life, respecting the woods natural expression
(photo 2-The shine
of a lacquer ware 5 years old is different from the gloss
of a newly made piece.)
Since the ancient times,
multifold of lacquer was used as a means to provide a sealing and
highly protective coating, making the wood very durable and functional.
He believes, if his urushi lacquer works is to last for a lifetime,
his relationship with the user should be a lifetime one as well.
If the lacquer ware is damaged, he will always be available to his
customers, and he will continue to mend and restore by applying
lacquer. This, in fact, is the traditional way in which a relationship
is established between the users and the craftsmen. If the material
is fine, the work is fine, too How he creates such natural
beauties is explained in the choices he makes in the lacquer
he uses. Lacquer collection is far too labor intensive, and there
are less and less people capable to tap lacquer trees for sap in
the deep mountain forests, and consequently, Japanese lacquer has
become expensive. Today the most commonly used lacquer comes from
China. These reasonably priced lacquer is often mixed with cashew,
and oil is added to obtain a finish with higher gloss. When Oide
Akira, one of his young friends, showed Fushimi his 100 percent
pure lacquer collected from the mountains in Nagano Prefecture,
Fushimis thoughts and choice in the lacquer to use, changed.
Below is an essay written by Fushimi, explaining why he decided
using the fine Japanese lacquer. The expression sara-sara
(thin) is not often heard in this profession, but hopefully his
choice of words and expressions will covey his heart.
by Oide Akira
I often used to tell myself, Oides lacquer is one of
the finest, so precious, that I shouldnt put to waste by using
it so frequently. As an alternative, I used lacquer from China,
trying to make it have the same consistency as the Japanese lacquer.
Oides lacquer, was stored and used only for my major
art works. Soon, however, I found myself questioning whether
I was making a mistake. A year has already passed since I decided
to use the special lacquer for all my works--works I am
engrossed in everyday and my mind is cleared from all doubts. What
is so special about Oides lacquer is that it has an incredible
consistency like water, so thin and sara sara. There is
undeniable difference in the degree of viscosity compared to lacquer
from China. When lacquer is left to stand, it gradually becomes sticky.
There is no greater joy in finding and being able to work with lacquer
that continues to remains thin (sara-sara). The thin layers of lacquer
enhance the natural beauty of the wood retaining the beautiful grain
and texture of the wood.
The lacquer dries or more accurately, cures. When it is thickly applied,
it becomes very solid and strong. However, I feel heavy coating looses
the woods natural expression and characteristics and becomes similar
to any solid plastic. Lacquer is applied on wood ware to act as reinforcement.
It may require repeated repair, and reinforcement, but it enables
the ware to be used until the wood decays. Urushi lacquer ware is
made from wood, and can not be compared with the firmness of a metal
or a ceramic ware. For me, there is unmatched warmth and softness
found in wooden ware. Oides lacquer has changed my thoughts about
applying lacquer. Not only has it changed my choice in the lacquer
to use, moreover, it has allowed me to find more joy in using the
medium. (Winds from the Studio, 1996)